Written by Arnavaz

At home, Vini’s family spoke Gujarati. Her parents were educated in a Gujarati medium school.  Like all young parents today, they are very keen that Vini grows up speaking good English. She is attending  a ‘good’ English medium primary school. The parents do all they can to create an atmosphere where Vini is comfortable interacting in English. Buying her attractive children’s books in English is part of that effort.  When she was in kindergarten, she would bring books to me so that we could look at pictures together. At times I read to her, and when doing so I picked out some common words which are repeated throughout the book and introduced them to her before we started reading. Then, as I read aloud to her, she would call out the words that she could ‘read’. At first, it would be with a lot of excitement, when recognising and calling out the words became more fun than listening to the story. Later, she would try to follow with her finger and fit them in at the right moment.  This was at a stage when she had started learning the alphabet and didn’t yet know that she could ‘read’.

It was quite a thrilling feeling for her, and more so for me. We read the story together.

It was an opportunity for me to try out  something we tell our teachers and reading promoters to do when supporting a struggling reader. This gave me an opportunity to try it out informally, out of the teacher-student context. It works, and it works well. It worked with Vini, it also worked with Akaash. Akaash was a Std. II student at the Colaba Municipal School. His favourite character was Bhoora Bhaloo, who features in a series of books. He loved read alouds from these books.  When asked to pick up a book he would choose one that features Bhoora Bhaloo. Once Tulsi and I were at the Community Learning Centre at Colaba, recording some children as they ‘read’ from books that they were familiar with. (These recordings were used as part of a training session on understanding reading.)  Akaash was one of the children we recorded.  He had picked up a Bhoora Bhaloo book and began ‘reading’ from it.  What he was actually doing was calling out a letter at a time, sometimes forming the word they made up. Taking this opportunity of being able to give him individual support, we showed him the words Bhoora Bhaloo on the cover page and encouraged him to look for the same on the other pages of the book. At first, it took him some time to pick out the words, but once he caught on, he wanted to find them on all the pages.  He, too, felt the thrill of reading.

With this thrill comes a sense of achievement which helps overcome the obstacles in the way.  There are many such small but very meaningful ways in which a struggling reader may be offered support.  For teachers who handle larger groups, this kind of individual attention is not always possible, but if some time can be worked into the schedule where ‘one on one’ support can be given to small groups of children every month, at the end of the term all the kids in the class would have been given that little boost.

May be we can all look at some such ‘small but very meaningful ways’ that we have tried out with kids wherever it we are working and create a common resource for this  live and learn website.

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